When I taught high school Film Appreciation, the first thing I would ask my students was, “If you were stuck on a desert island for the rest of your life and had nothing but food, fresh water, and a home theater (with electricity), what five movies would you want with you?” (I believe intense psychological questions like this require some specificity. Emador, non-PhD)
This question is much more telling than “what is your favorite movie” because it gives you variety – you’re not defining yourself by a single movie. You get to give a more complete picture of who you are and what you identify with. It also takes the pressure off of coming up with a movie that you not only love but it also well-made and critically acclaimed. When you’re in film school, your tastes (and, by extension, your opinions on quality) are always judged on your “favorite movie.”
For example, I love Casablanca and The Godfather. They are well-made, critically acclaimed, and I will never tire of them. But I wouldn’t make them one of the only movies I’d watch for the rest of my life. The following movies, however (presented in no particular order), will give you a better insight as to who exactly Emador is. 🙂
As I said in my review of Dunkirk, I am a huge Christopher Nolan fan, and I think Inception was the first Nolan film I saw. Not only is the premise intriguing, it has an incredible cast. DiCaprio. Gordon-Levitt. Hardy. (And those are just the reasons I went to see the movie in the first place!) One of the things I like about Nolan is that he reuses actors a lot – Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt – and those he uses are incredibly versatile. It’s not like Kate Hudson where, if you’ve seen one movie of hers, you’ve seen them all (no offense to Ms. Hudson).
I fell in love with this movie from the first time I saw it in the cinema. Being a writer, I obviously love the idea of being able to create your own world and live in that world. I’ve always been fascinated by dreams – whenever I wake up from a dream, my first stop is Dream Moods, where I can search keywords to see if there’s anything I can glean from my dreams. For instance, one time I had a dream about being stuck in this weird apartment. As it turns out, apartments usually symbolize our financial states and at the time I was incredibly stressed about my finances. Dreams are a wonderful window into our deepest selves. The fact that certain things can subconsciously mean the same things to everyone – for example (as they say in Inception) if the dreamer dreams up a safe or a jail, the subject of the dream will automatically fill it with their own secrets. (I also love psychology and digging into my and others’ brains – have you gotten that yet?)
And I’m a sucker for a good red herring.
Back to the Future
My reason for choosing this movie is two-fold. First, it’s just a great movie. I love time travel stories and this is a classic one. It’s fun, funny, and feel-good. When I was in college, I’d occasionally do Back to the Future marathons on Sundays and watch all 3 movies. It inevitably led to regret, having spent my entire Sunday in the same spot (and having put myself through Back to the Future Part 2), and then stress when I’d realize I had watched 9 hours of Back to the Future instead of studying for an exam the next day.
The other reason I love it is because it so perfectly and beautifully fits into every single screenwriting formula. From Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet to the 3-act structure, it hits every single plot point and emotional beat. When I taught Film Appreciation it was THE example I’d use for screenwriting and film structure lesson plans.
Now, I did not choose this movie because it fits into the formulas and beats, but rather I love when things are so well organized and structured yet still flow naturally. Call it an insight into my soul.
It’s a Wonderful Life
In my family, we watch this every Christmas. There is some dispute in our family as to whether our tradition is to watch it on Christmas Eve or Christmas night. I personally prefer to watch it on Christmas Eve because a large chunk of the movie takes place on Christmas Eve, and it’s a good shot of optimism and “do-gooder-ness” before the big day.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with this film. First, you’ve got Jimmy Stewart. ’nuff said.
Second, it has a great message – one that resonates with me. Now, I cannot stand movies who have a message and try to build this flimsy story around the message and think their film is going to change lives. Frank Capra, the director of this gem, once said, “If you want to send a message, try Western Union.” Frank Capra didn’t make films to get a message across. He just told great stories and the messages came about organically. It’s a Wonderful Life is no exception – it tells a beautiful story, and the message comes across so clearly. Simply, you don’t need to be rich, famous, or powerful to make a difference. Like Clarence says in the movie, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives,” and “no man is a failure who has friends.”
George Bailey is my hero and #lifegoals.
Newsies (1992) / Newsies (2017)
I’m cheating a bit here and combining my last two movies into the same entry. I first saw Newsies (1992) when I was in 6th grade. You can read all about that here. Newsies is my jam, plain and simple. Even as I’m not on a desert island, I watch it over and over again.
However, our benevolent Disney overloads (accept it, people – between Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars, it’s already happened) decided to bestow a gift upon us mere mortals in the form of not only putting Newsies onto Broadway…not only putting Newsies on a National Tour (*coughWhichISaw3timescough*)…but they FILMED the production and released it into theaters. As if that weren’t enough, they released it onto iTunes for us to buy and watch over and over again until our heart’s content (which it never is).
The story, the music, the actors…this movie is my life. This movie is so closely tied to my childhood, it occupies a very large place in my heart.
So there you have it. If I were to have given you only one title as my “favorite movie,” you wouldn’t have much to work with in terms of learning about me as a person. Now you know that I love a complex movie with different twists and turns and a little brain shrinking thrown in (Inception), I love time travel and am compulsively organized (Back to the Future), I want to be a good person and leave my mark on the world but don’t want to necessarily do it in a big or historically significant way (It’s a Wonderful Life), and I enjoy catchy songs and dancing amid the backdrop of American history (Newsies). Oh, and I love me some eye-candy (Newsies, Inception).
You’ve probably also figured out that I love exploring the psychological significance – real or imagined – behind such innocuous things as someone’s
favorite desert island movies.